Saturday, July 20

Sabah can set water tariff without ministry’s support – minister

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Dr Jayakumar (fourth left) looking at the confiscated products that people had attempted to bring in and out of the country, displayed during the Sabah Biosafety Awareness Seminar yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah can determine its own water tariff rates without the support of the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry, said its minister Dr Xavier Jayakumar.

Dr Jayakumar clarified the state’s agreement is not one that is sought-after before the ministry raised the water tariff rates so the government can restructure the water supply services industry nationwide.

“Discussions and talks between the Sabah state and us are still running, but Sabah can determine the increase in water tariff on its own without getting my support,” he explained after launching the Sabah level Biosafety Awareness Seminar here yesterday.

“But in the Sabah water industry, the ministry is ready to assist Sabah with new projects, with water supply and sewerage.

“This is one of the aspects that the ministry and Sabah state can cooperate to determine the future of Sabahans. Everyone can drink the best water at an affordable price for the industry in Sabah,” he added.

“No. Sabah is not one of them,” he replied when asked whether Sabah is one of the states that need to agree to a new water tariff before changes can be made nationwide.

During a sitting on April 10, Dr Jayakumar told the Dewan Rakyat that the water tariff nationwide should have been raised two or five years ago because it has failed to offset annual operating costs, putting some water operators in a financially difficult position to provide quality water services.

On the ceiling price, he said it varies according to the state and operational capacity, among other things.

Dr Jayakumar also said the government is taking firm stand on preserving biodiversity in the country through the creation of the Biosafety Act 2007.

He said via the formulation of the Act, the Biosafety Department was established in 2010 which complemented the implementation of the National Biodiversity Policy 2016-2025.

The biosafety concept did not only refer to the need to preserve biodiversity but also on human health and the environment, he said.

He said that it was important in view of possible negative effects resulting from the rapid development of the modern biotechnology industry.

“The genetic engineering technology field, known as modern biotechnology, allows the transfer of a gene from one organism to another.

“In ensuring the possible risks of modern biotechnology application are at an acceptable level, biosafety analysis is essential,” he said.

A procedure for processing a Living Modified Organism (LMO) application was also created under the Biosafety Act and only approved LMOs were allowed to be released into the country, he said.

Hence, he said, his ministry through the Department of Biosafety played an important role in implementing the act to regulate the release, importation, exportation and use of LMOs.

Meanwhile, at a press conference later, he said his ministry carried out close monitoring to prevent foreign LMOs from being brought into the country illegally.

With the development of current technology, there were LMOs used to increase agricultural yields such as oil palm, rubber and cocoa.

He said an integrated committee was set up under the Department of Biosafety to monitor and enforce LMOs movement at entry points, fields and supermarkets throughout the country.

His ministry, he said, also worked closely with the state government in the monitoring and enforcement efforts pertaining to LMOs’ activities.